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Bengals finally solve Walker

11-04-02, 8:55 a.m.


Texans Pro Bowl defensive end Gary Walker wanted to make sure he introduced himself to Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson, so why not during around the time of the pre-game introductions?

"He came up to me and I said, 'Nice to meet you,''' said a smiling Johnson. "He told me he was a veteran and to call him, 'Mr. Walker.'"

It was Mr. Walker who took offense to Johnson's victory guarantee earlier in the week, saying he hadn't been unable to find Johnson on film last year in Walker's two games with Jacksonville.

But after the game, there was Johnson chatting with Walker as Walker passed through to say hello to former Auburn teammate Willie Anderson.

"We're cool," Johnson said.

"Hey man," said Walker as he stuck out his hand to say good-bye, "you've got to do what you got to do to get your team ready."

Actually, the biggest part of the game may have been the re-introduction of Anderson and Walker. When Anderson was told it was the first time the Bengals had run the ball effectively against a line with Walker and tackle Seth Payne, Anderson said, "It's the first time I've been over Walker."

In Jacksonville's 4-3 defense, Walker played mostly tackle and running back Corey Dillon averaged 2.9 yards per carry in his five games against them. But in the Texans' 3-4 he found himself at left end and it was a good matchup for the Bengals in the running game.

Dillon went for 92 yards on 22 carries for 4.2 yards and Anderson, whose got about 40 pounds on Walker, got movement. Anderson finally got the situation he's been looking for: A big lead with the offensive line able to drain the clock by pounding Dillon.

On the first series of the fourth quarter on a second-and-7, Dillon rambled behind Anderson's block on Walker for 10 yards to the Texans 19 and Anderson gave a little leap and waved the first-down signal.

"It's the first time I've blocked him since I was 19 years old," said Anderson of an Auburn scrimmage eight years ago. "It's a thrill to go against him because he's at the top of the linemen in the AFC."

Walker, who is a quick player, goes to Pro Bowls with his speed. But Anderson said, "If you let him finesse you, he'll kill you, so you have to use your strength.

"In the last two games, the line has really stepped up," Anderson said. "We've said we're going to put this season on us and we did today."

But Anderson made it clear that they wanted no more Joe Willie Namaths.

"We told Chad Johnson no more guarantees," Anderson said. "It puts too much pressure on the offensive line because the crowd gets so into it and you can't hear. But the line came through today."

Johnson assured him there would be no more assurances.

"No more guarantees," Johnson said. "We're just looking to be more consistent.

"It feels good, but everyone misinterpreted the guarantee thing,'' Johnson said. "I didn't mean any disrespect to the Texans. What I wanted to do was add fuel to our fire, make a statement.''

But Johnson knew he was a marked man, so it was big when he grabbed an 18-yard catch on the Bengals' first play. Fittingly, Jon Kitna's lass pass of the day also went to Johnson for a 10-yard touchdown.

"I made it look I was going across the middle and then just cut it back outside," said Johnson, who had three catches for 41 yards.

Now that he has 22 catches in his last four games (for 12.2 yards per play), Johnson was a bit disappointed to hear Walker couldn't find him on film.

I'm on there the last four games," Johnson said.


WESTBROOK SURFACES:** Oh yeah, Michael Westbrook. Remember? The free-agent receiver the Bengals picked up for $1.5 million per year to replace Darnay Scott? On Sunday, he did what Scott never did last year and scored two touchdowns in the 38-3 victory.

But Westbrook, inactive for the last two games and catch-less since Week 2, said he still felt empty.

"I'll probably feel that way until we get a few more wins," Westbrook

said. "I still don't understand why they haven't had me in there. I was playing when I was hurt and probably shouldn't have been playing and when I finally got healthy, it's like they gave up on me."

Westbrook broke his wrist on the third day of training camp and he got virtually no snaps until the opener. When he struggled against the Browns and had a drop against Atlanta, Westbrook got demoted from the starting lineup and then didn't even dress against the Steelers. He couldn't play last week because of a hamstring problem, but he had already made inroads to make his way back.

"I was only getting looks on the scout team and I was making plays in practice," Westbrook said. "I don't think they could overlook the way I was practicing. I'm fast and I'm catching the ball. I just want to play, that's all."

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